A Gate of Night / Page 28

Page 28


My heart skipped a beat. Does he know? “I need the fresh air, Kiev. I enjoy the strolls. I think it’s good for the babies.”

Kiev didn’t seem pleased with my request. “I think you spend too much time with Eli.”

“The only times I spend with him are the times you allow me to, Kiev.” What is going on with him?

“Tell him this is the last time you’ll be spending time with him.”

Olga helped me pull a sweater over the light pink dress I was wearing. “Why? Have we done anything to displease you?”

“No.” Kiev shook his head, his bright red eyes sparkling with something akin to excitement. “We’re going tonight.”

“Going? You mean…”

“Yes. Tonight’s the night, Sofia.” He stood to his feet, seemingly pleased with himself. “Get ready.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Just be prepared to do whatever I tell you to.”

“Okay.” I nodded, paranoid over the coincidence that Kiev would schedule his escape on the same day Eli and I did. “Thank you, Kiev.”

He walked up to me and ran his hand over my belly. I tried to suppress a shudder at how he looked at my stomach. “You’re shaking.”

“I’m cold,” was the only excuse I could come up with. I wanted to get as far away from him as possible.

“Maybe this will warm you up.” He pulled me into a tight embrace. I could sense him breathing in my scent.

I forced myself to stop trembling. I was revolted by his touch. I couldn’t understand what he wanted with me. If he was so interested in me, then why hadn’t he just taken me to his bed when I’d willingly offered myself up to him out of desperation?

Kiev was a great unknown and what I didn’t know left me on edge. I was relieved when he finally let go of me.

“I’ll take you to the gardens.” He offered his arm and I linked mine with his, despite the fact that all I wanted was to be far from him.

Shadow followed behind us—at a distance, seemingly wary of Kiev ever since Kiev had clawed at the beast’s skin.

When I saw Eli waiting at the gardens, I was both relieved and mortified. I knew what we were about to do and the consequences should we fail.

“Eli.” I tried to smile.

“Pleasant evening to you, your highness,” he greeted. “Have you eaten yet?”

“Breakfast always comes after our stroll. You know that.” I couldn’t help but note the edge in Eli’s tone of voice. His asset had always been his brains and not his brawn. Should we be caught, there was no way he could defend me or even himself. Eli Lazaroff simply wasn’t a man of battle.

Kiev eyed the man from head to foot. “Don’t tire her. She needs rest. She’ll be giving birth soon.”

“Of course, sire.” Eli nodded. “I’ll see to it that she doesn’t overly exert herself.”

Kiev kissed me on the cheek before leaving me with Eli, who watched as the Elder’s spawn faded into the distance.

“What was that all about?” Eli asked when Kiev was finally out of earshot.

I shrugged. “He’s been touchy-feely all morning. I think it has something to do with Clara’s visit to him last night.”

Eli didn’t ask more questions, to my relief. After all, we had more urgent matters at hand. “Okay then. Are you ready?”

I nodded. “As ready as a mother can ever be, I guess.”

As we talked, we walked steadily toward the boundaries. With Shadow tailing us, none of the vampires or the caretakers or the beasts who saw us suspected what we were up to. They were all expecting Shadow to pounce on me like he had the last time I tried to step over the boundaries of where I should and shouldn’t be.

Once we were right at the very edge of the boundary, we stopped. I slipped out the vial I tucked into my sleeve and handed it over to Eli. It contained my blood. He drank every drop of it.

We didn’t have to discuss the plan. We knew it by heart. We’d whispered about its pros and cons for weeks.

“You remember the hut?” Eli asked, careful with his words, in case someone was listening in on our conversation.

I nodded.

“Okay then?”

There were no further cues required. I took a sharp intake of breath. Eli whistled and snapped his fingers. Shadow lunged forward. As he did, I climbed onto his back and within less than two minutes, all three of us were outside the boundaries of The Blood Keep and right into broad daylight.

We were headed for a hut that Eli had heard one of the servants speak of. It was several miles away and they used it to store grain. That was our meeting place.

It turned out that Shadow was a lot faster than Eli. I could only hope that no one noticed our departure, because if they noticed, they were going to send the beasts after us. They might not catch Shadow and me, but Eli was in danger.

It felt like we’d been running for hours and I wondered if Shadow was getting tired of carrying me as he continued to sprint forward. The sun was beginning to burn the beast’s skin and I could tell that he was in pain, but I was amazed at his resilience. He just kept going and I was grateful for it. I tried to look back to see how Eli was doing, but I could barely move, as I was focusing all my attention on holding on to Shadow for dear life. All I could do was wish that Eli was unharmed. That he was safe. Should this escape succeed, I owed my life to him… him and Shadow.

I was relieved when we reached the hut. Shadow’s skin was beginning to burn off and given my current situation, I was fighting my urge to vomit all along the way. My back was screaming in pain and I was afraid of what the ride had done to the children I was carrying.

I staggered toward the hut, dying to take a seat. Shadow retreated to a dark corner in order to recover from the pain the sun had caused him. Seems like vampire dogs have far more endurance than their human counterparts. I couldn’t deny my amazement over the creatures created by Eli and The Underground. It’s too bad most of them are under the Elder’s control now.

I had to wait for Eli there. I’d barely reached the door when liquid ran down my thighs. No. This can’t be happening. Not now… It can’t be. Not now.

Sure enough, I saw a puddle of water beneath me. My waters just broke.

Tired and afraid, I stepped inside the hut. I tried to get comfortable. It felt like hours before Eli arrived. By then, I was screaming from the waves of labour pains washing over me.

When Eli arrived, he barely had any skin left on his body. The sun had burnt away his flesh. “I think I have to stay in the sun for the whole process to finish, Sofia,” he managed to tell me from outside the door. “I can’t help you. We have to get away from here. They’ll be on our tails soon.”

I tried to get up on my feet, but another wave of spasms sent me back to the ground, reeling in pain. Shadow whimpered from outside the cabin, as if he too could feel my pain.

I shook my head in desperation as I stared at Eli. “I’m so sorry. I can’t. I just can’t…” Tears were streaming down my face when I realized that I was going to have to give birth there. With no one to help me.

That was when Eli retrieved an item from his pocket—something so precious given the situation we were in. It was a phone. “I stole it from one of the servants. I don’t know if it works, Sofia, but it’s worth a try.” He threw the item at me. He then shut the door and ran to the woods where the sunlight still burned out the vampire’s curse, my blood still coursing through his veins.

I grabbed the phone and opened it. I was relieved to see the LED screen light up. There was the tiniest signal on there. I dialled the one number I knew—hunters headquarters. The line was so crackly, I could barely make out what the hunter was saying, but from what I could hear, a group of hunters was already at The Blood Keep. I had to keep myself on the line until she could figure out my location, using the phone’s signal to track me down. Waves of reassurance came over me when the hunter said, “Okay. Just hang on, Sofia. I’ll try to get in touch with one of the hunters stationed outside the Keep. Hopefully someone will be there shortly.”

The wait was excruciating. The labour was painful. When I heard shouting outside, I thought that it was the end of everything. They know we’re gone. They sent the beasts to get us. I was expecting to be found anytime even as I drifted in and out of consciousness from the pain.

When the door swung open and I saw the handsome face of my beloved husband, Corrine standing alongside him, I thought I was hallucinating.

“Sofia.” His voice broke as he ran to my side. I felt his firm grip on my arm and his lips on mine, but I wasn’t sure it was for real. I just knew that I was thankful that he was there. My Derek was there.

Everything seemed so surreal. Corrine had taken over. The pain was making everything fuzzy. I just kept staring into Derek’s face, unable to believe that he was really beside me.

“You can do this, Sofia. You’re doing fine,” he encouraged as I pushed at Corrine’s command. I clung to Derek for dear life, wondering if I was hurting him.

“You’re doing fine, Sofia.”

I heard a small cry. Then I saw tears in Derek’s eyes.

“We have a boy. Sofia, we have a son,” he announced. He reached for the child. I tried to lift my head to catch a glimpse, but then another spasm of pain came. I screamed.

“There’s another one!” Corrine announced.

I saw the delight in Derek’s eyes. He wanted this. I wanted this. I had been at The Blood Keep alone with this pregnancy for so long I had forgotten that we’d dreamed of this. Derek and I wanted to have a family.

I stared at him. Is he really here?

“Push, Sofia! Push!”

Out of instinct, I responded to Corrine’s screams. The pain had reached a peak so that I could barely feel it. I wasn’t certain if the whole thing was even real, but I did as I was told.

When I heard a second cry, I looked up at Derek again. I saw pure joy on his face.

“It’s a girl,” Corrine announced, relief in her voice.

Derek held both children in his arms, and looked at me with such delight. “Everything’s going to be all right, Sofia,” he told me, then worry immediately replaced his joy. “Sofia?” Panic came with the way he said my name. “Corrine, take the babies. I'll bring Sofia. We need to get to a hospital as soon as possible.”

The witch quickly obliged and within seconds, I was in Derek’s arms.

“Derek, where were you?” I began to sob into his chest as my head spun from everything that had just occurred.

This is too good to be true.

“Sofia, darling, I’m so sorry. I tried to get here as soon as I could and I just… I’m sorry.” I felt his kisses. I felt the strength of his embrace. I felt the heave and sigh of his chest and the beating of his heart. I felt the warmth of his breath on my skin as he showered me with apologies.

I was exactly where I had longed to be, but just as I was beginning to accept what was happening, the door swung open and the man with red eyes stepped in.

Night had fallen. The darkness had come. Perhaps it was mercy that stole me away from that moment and allowed me to fade from consciousness, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to survive what was to happen next.

Chapter 41: Derek

The state Sofia was in was tearing me apart. She needed immediate medical attention.

“She needs to go to a hospital.”

Kiev looked at her. “Yes. She does.”

“But if you think you can take her away from me…”

“Save your threats. It’s not her I want.” He paused and stared at Sofia.

I noticed the way he gulped as he eyed her blood.

He smirked. “Well, maybe I do want her, but not more than I want something else that you have.”

Before I could respond, he rushed out of the hut. Corrine screamed outside. I wanted to get up, but Sofia was cradled in my arms and I was afraid that if I let go, I’d never be able to hold her again.

Within seconds, Corrine burst into the door, holding one baby instead of two.

My eyes widened in horror. “No!”

“He took your son! It all happened so fast! I couldn’t do anything to…”

“No!” I screamed. I looked at my unconscious wife, cradled in my arms. How am I ever going to tell you? “Where’s Arron?! Where are the others?! What are they doing?!”

I knew the answer. The Guardians were back at The Blood Keep wreaking their havoc there. Aiden and Vivienne, along with the rest of our crew, were probably lost in the heat of battle.

As if we weren’t already surrounded by enough chaos, another unwelcome guest arrived in a flash of light. The silver-haired vixen herself. The Ageless.

“What do you want?” I hissed at her.

“Forgive me for what I am about to do, Derek, but our intervention at The Shade came with a price. Corrine knows that every time a witch intervenes in the manner that she did, there are always consequences. The Elders are demanding justice for their loss.”

“Justice? After all the injustices they put us through?” I hated the witch more than I’d ever thought I could. “Do you see my wife right now?”

“Sofia is strong. She always has been. Her spirit is perhaps even stronger than yours. I have no doubt in my mind that both of you will survive what is to come.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, “but the payment they demand for what you did is your wife.”

I clung to Sofia for dear life, afraid that I would crush her, but unwilling to let go. I pressed my lips against her even as I turned desperate eyes toward a creature more powerful than any of us. “Please. Don’t.”

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